WALKER — By the time Caitlin Travis stepped to the free-throw line with 4.1 seconds left, third-seeded Walker High had missed five of its last six free throws in the previous 15 seconds.
Travis made one of two free throws and watched as St. Amant heaved one last shot that was off the mark as Walker held on to notch a 60-57 victory in a Class 5A regional-round playoff game played Monday night at WHS.
“We could have closed it out sooner,” Travis said. “We made turnovers we don’t normally make and we didn’t make our free throws. “All we can do now is get back to work tomorrow and get better.”
Travis, Walker’s sophomore point guard, scored a game-high 24 points. With the win, the Wildcats (29-3) advance to play the winner of Tuesday’s game between H.L. Bourgeois and Captain Shreve.
Based on seeding, Walker of District 4-5A figured to have an advantage. But
No. 14 St. Amant (21-10), the unbeaten champion of District 5-5A, found ways to solve WHS’ full-court press and wound up with easy baskets. The Gators trailed by as much as eight points in the third quarter and were down by six with 43.2 seconds remaining.
“This team always battles,” first-year St. Amant coach Bianca Harvey said. “They never gave up. It was the same in our last game … we were down by 10 in the fourth quarter and came back to win.
“I am so proud of the effort, always. When they missed those free throws, I felt like the game was there for us and we could not find a way to finish.”
Each team had three players in double figures. Amani Gray led St. Amant with 20 points and Deniya Thornton added 15. It was Thornton who made a 3-pointer from the left wing with 25.5 seconds left that made it a 59-56 game.
Walker turned the ball over and then Travis missed two free throws. Gray made one of two free throws for the Gators with 6.5 seconds to go to make it a 59-57.
Travis grabbed a teammate’s missed free throw and was fouled before she could dribble out the clock, setting up the final sequence.
“I expected what we got from (St. Amant), they are an improved team,” Walker coach Korey Arnold said. “They came out in a triangle-and-two defense and it took a while for us to adjust.
“We had a couple of kids step up and make shots they don’t normally make. But defensively, we didn’t play and that was my fault. Yes, we’ve got to get better.”